The Other


Streets Of Fire
CD Liner Notes

By John Tobler, 1994

With one of the biggest albums of 1993 having been Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’, it is my distinct privilege to introduce this album (for the first time on CD in Britain) which could be termed a blood relation to the original 1978 ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ which had spent eight years on the UK album chart by the end of 1991 and to ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’, which entered the UK album chart at Number One and sold a million copies in a month. Meat Loaf is only peripherally involved in the soundtrack to this 1984 fantasy film, ‘Streets Of Fire’, but Mr. Loaf’s main man, one eccentric songwriting genius named Jim Steinman is heavily involved.

After the incredible success of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ which has been certified seven times platinum (for sales of 7 million plus), and featured the giant voice of Meat Loaf performing the amazingly surreal songs of Steinman, it took nearly four years before a follow-up album was released, due to a series of strange events. Meat Loaf was unable (or possibly unwilling?) to sing the songs Steinman had written for a second album, ‘Bad For Good’ (as in permanently putrid) not least because he had been touring relentlessly since ‘Bat’ had first been released and must have been both mentally and physically blitzed. Steinman was forced to write another complete album’s worth of songs to which Meat Loaf was rather more partial, enough to allow him to record them as ‘Dead Ringer’ which was released in the last quarter of 1981, four months after Steinman’s own version of ‘Bad For Good’ had made the Top 10 of the UK chart.

If anything ‘Bad For Good’ eclipsed ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ for sheer over-the-top bravado. Those familiar with ‘Bat Out Of Hell II’ may be interested to know that ‘Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through’, ‘Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)’ and ‘Lost Boys And Golden Girls’ all first appeared on ‘Bad For Good’ in 1981, 12 years before Meat Loaf included them on the chart-topping sequel to his multi-million seller. Todd Rundgren, who produced both ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ and ‘Bad For Good’, had this to say about Steinman: “His voice is similar to Meat’s - not as bombastic, but as tremulous and melodramatic and I would say that if the uneducated listener closed his eyes, he’d probably have a hard time distinguishing the difference. Steinman isn’t quite so operatic but he has the same hysterical, emotional pitch, and the overall effect is that you suddenly realize that ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ was a Jim Steinman album, but with this other guy, Meat Loaf singing on it.” After that, Steinman didn’t record again for a while, instead becoming a highly successful (if erratic and unconventional) songwriter/producer working with an increasingly unlikely collection of clients, ranging from Barry Manilow (!), who had a US & UK Top 20 hit with ‘Read ‘Em And Weep’ in 1983, to the same year’s international chart-topping single by Bonnie Tyler, ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’, and its platinum parent album, ‘Faster Than The Speed Of Night’, as well as other later successes with Tyler to 1984’s US Top 50 hit by Barbra Streisand, ‘Left In The Dark’ to Air Supply’s 1983 million seller ‘Making Love Out Of Nothing At All’ - and then, in 1984, the ‘Streets Of Fire’ movie soundtrack, which is the reason you’re reading this.

‘Bat Out Of Hell’ was supposedly either the precursor or the sequel (or maybe both) to Steinman’s ‘Neverland’ project, a futuristic version of ‘Peter Pan’ - as an aside, Meat Loaf was scheduled to play the part of ‘Tinkerbell’ in a proposed movie of ‘Neverland’, which has yet to happen. When reminded that he would be playing the part of a fairy, he made it clear that the character would be known as Tink and would be more like a genie than a fairy. ‘Streets Of Fire’ must have instantly appealed to Steinman as a ‘Neverland’ substitute - his gothic musical tastes (Wagner’s mentioned as a favorite and an influence) made him an obvious choice as a major contributor to noted film director Walter Hill’s exaggerated cartoon morality play, whose plot went something like this: a gang of bikers known as The Bombers kidnap a beautiful rock star, Ellen Aim (played by Diane Lane) because their leader, Raven (an utterly evil Willem Dafoe), fancies her. Her wimp manager, Billy Fish (a fine performance by Rick Moranis, the nerd-like star of ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’), doesn’t know what to do until Ellen’s ex-boyfriend, Tom Cody (a hunky hero played by Michael Pare looking like Clark Gable with built-up heels) arrives in town (a kind of nightmare New York) to see his sister Reva (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) and hears the news. He’d split with Ellen because she wanted to become a rock star and he didn’t want to be trailing round after her and he’s not inclined to rescue her from a rough part of the city known as The Battery until his sister along with Fish and a tough female vagrant, McCoy (Amy Madigan, later star of ‘Field Of Dreams’) in various ways convince him that he should. As in all good fairy stories, the good guys win and the bad guys are sent away with their Harley Davidson between their legs (leaving just enough room for their tails), but the hero doesn’t get the girl, for more than one night and strides purposefully toward the horizon, while the wimp gets the girl back - for the time being. It’s an excellent move, most entertaining and with spectacular stunts, although the squeamish might consider it excessively violent (which it isn’t really - this is comic-book-action, but with real people).

The entire movie is accompanied by and exceptional and varied soundtrack. The overall score was composed by Ry Cooder (who also worked in that role on several other notable Walter Hill movies, including ‘The Long Riders,’ ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Southern Comfort’, but Cooder’s contribution to the soundtrack album is minor - just one track, ‘Hold That Snake’. However, Steinman wrote two epic songs, ‘Nowhwere Fast’ (also recorded by Meat Loaf on his 1984 album, ‘Bad Attitude’) and the otherwise unrecorded ‘Tonight Is What it Means To Be Young’, a definitive Steinman classic. Both are performed by a studio group known as Fire Inc., led by Steinman probably playing piano, with vocalists Laurie Sargent, Holly Sherwood, Rory Dodd and Eric Troyer - Sherwood was later one of the featured vocalists on ‘Original Sin’, a 1989 album by Pandora’s Box, which was actually another Steinman venture, but one which has sadly never been recognized as the masterpiece it certainly is - even a recent ‘Record Collector’ feature on Meat Loaf and Steinman failed to mention it. Eric Troyer, who appears on several of the albums mentioned above is also, it’s interesting to know, a current member of ELO Part 2 and can be heard on John Lennon’s ‘Double Fantasy’ comeback album, while Rory Dodd has similarly worked extensively with Steinman.

Two great tracks like these would make this album a desirable commodity, but there’s plenty more - The Blasters, the uncompromising Los Angeles rock-a-billy group, appear in the movie playing in a bar where they accompany a GoGo dancer in a G-String and their ‘One Bad Stud’ (an obscure classic written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who were responsible for such timeless hits as ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Yikety Yak’, ‘Charlie Brown’ ‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Ruby Ruby’ and many more) is excellent - it was originally recorded (in 1954) by the Honey Bears, fact fans - as is ‘Blue Shadows’, written by Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin, whose brother Phil was the group’s vocalist. Legendary New Orleans saxophonist Lee Allen guests with The Blasters and briefly appears on the screen with them as well as on the album. Laurie Sargent performs both ‘Sorcerer’ (written by Stevie Nicks) and ‘Never Be You’ on the movie soundtrack album but on the soundtrack album the respective vocalists are Marilyn Martin (who duetted with Phil Collins on the 1985 US chart-topper, ‘Separate Lives’, featured in the movie ‘White Nights’) and Maria McKee (who topped the UK chart in 1990 with ‘Show Me Heaven’, also from a movie, ‘Days Of Thunder’). Also worth noting is that ‘Never Be You’ was written by Tom Petty (who produced the McKee version) and fellow Heatbreaker Benmont Tench and was recorded in 1985 on the ‘Rhythm & Romance’ album by Rosanne Cash, who also released it as a single - which topped the US country charts. It would appear that Petty himself has yet to release his own version of the song…

What next? The Sorels, a black vocal group, whose tour bus is hijacked by Cody and his chums to get them through a police roadblock, become Ellen Aim’s backing vocal group and are managed by Billy Fish. They also perform a glorious pastiche of Fifties doowop ‘Countdown To Love,’ written by Kenny Vance a founder member of Sixties hitmakers Jay & The Americans, and superbly performed on the soundtrack album by Greg Philliganes, whose name should be familiar to Eric Clapton fans - he was keyboard player in Clapton’s band on several recent albums. As another bonus, Dan Hartman performs ‘I Can Dream About You’, his only US Top 10 hit, on the album, although on the screen it’s performed by the doowop quartet. ‘Deeper And Deeper’ is heard over the film’s end credits as performed by The Fixx, a British techno-pop group who had four US Top 40 hits in 1983/4, and overall, this is a soundtrack album which could easily have been released in 1994, but is in fact ten years old - ahead of its time, or what?